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August 30, 2011

989th Artillery Battalion “blew the doors to smithereens” at Dachau

Filed under: Dachau, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 5:31 pm

The following story is from an article, written by Shirley Welsh in the Vail Daily News, on June 7, 2007.  The title of the article is “Have you ever heard of Dachau?”  I found this old article when I was going through my files today, weeding out old documents.  This is the story told by Frank Doll, an American soldier, who was with the 989th Artillery Battalion.

Quote from the article by Shirley Welsh:

“Have you heard of Dachau?” (Asked the Colonel)

“No, sir,” Frank replied.

“It’s a concentration camp. The Nazis have been moving a lot of prisoners there from the other camps to Dachau. The 42nd is going to take the camp, but they need artillery for support.”  

The article in the Vail Daily News continues with this quote:

As First Lt. Frank Doll, he was in charge of communications for the 989th Artillery Battalion. The most common gun in his command was a 155 mm gun, which was a long barreled rifle. This gun was so accurate that a gunner could shoot a target three feet away from where he shot his previous bomb with just a simple adjustment. Most of these big guns were towed behind tractors.

Dachau Concentration Camp, located some 10 miles north of Munich, was a dismal place of death. Constructed from an unused gunpowder facility, the camp was retrofitted with crematoriums to burn dead bodies and barracks where horrific surgical experiments were performed. However, most of the 200,000 prisoners — from more than 30 countries and one-third of those Jews — died from disease, malnutrition and suicide. More than 30,000 prisoners perished at Dachau. A vile black smoke constantly settled over the camp, filling every crevice with the odor of death.

Because the Nazis were losing the war, many prisoners from other camps had been removed and loaded on train cars for the trip to Dachau. These prisoners were packed into the rail cars and given nothing to eat and most of them were already half-starved and many fatally ill. Very few arrived at Dachau alive.

It was April 29, 1945, and inside the camp were some 45,000 miserable souls. […]

When the 42nd Division arrived with Frank’s artillery, the camp was ablaze from giant floodlights, and all around was barren ground. It air smelled foul, of death and misery.

Main gate into the Dachau SS garrison at Dachau (Where are the tanks?)

Huge wooden doors stood as sentry to the outside world. Tanks moved into position and blew the doors to smithereens. Chaos erupted. Skeletal looking prisoners, men and women with only a hint of flesh on their bones, their eyes hallow and deep set, poured out of the doors of Dachau. Those trustees who had been left in charge took flight and those prisoners capable of chase did so until they caught and killed the men who had tormented them, starved them, and committed unhuman acts. When order was finally restored, an inspection of the train cars on the tracks showed thousands of dead bodies, those poor souls who did not make the trip alive from other concentration camps and who were simply left to rot.

I have written about the liberation of Dachau on my web site here.


  1. My Great uncle (Albert f Otto)never spoke of the war to anyone untill one day me and my brothers were seated around his tv and we watched a documentary on pbs about the concentration camps. He broke down crying like a baby and told us that we could never understand the horror of such a place from black and white film without the stench of death all around us. He proceded to tell us 4 different stories about the war. But he spoke no more of the camps. I now realize with certanty which camp he spoke of … He was in the 989th field artillery and during the war he spoke fluent German. He not only seen the horrors but he heard the tales first hand from the internee’s.

    Comment by Michael Heilers — September 18, 2016 @ 8:31 pm

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